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Free Agent Profile: Gary Matthews Jr.

Gary Matthews Jr.

Break-out season doesn’t even come close to describing the year Gary Matthews Jr. put together in 2006. He has been a major leaguer since 1999, but Matthews Jr. hadn’t hit over .275 in a season, hadn’t driven-in over 55 runs, and hadn’t come close to scoring 100 runs before 2006. It’s hard to say if this was a fluke year for Gary Matthews Jr., or if he’s just now becoming a great player at the age of 31.

Here are Matthews Jr’s stats for 2006…

  • Batting Average: .313
  • On-Base Percentage: .371 — among best for AL leadoff hitters
  • Slugging Percentage: .495 — take that from a leadoff man any day
  • OPS: .866
  • Doubles: 44 — excellent for a leadoff hitter
  • Triples: 6
  • Homeruns: 19
  • RBI: 79 — destroys previous career high of 55
  • Runs: 102 — WOW
  • Stolen Bases/Caught Stealing: 10/7
  • Walks: 58
  • Strikeouts: 99 — not a good ratio for a leadoff hitter

Gary Matthews Jr. did far better at the plate in 2006 than he’s ever done before. His 102 runs scored and 79RBI were among the best for AL leadoff hitters. Not so good however, was Matthews Jr.’s terrible 58-to-99 walk to strikeout ratio, which is not a mark of a solid leadoff man. If he can keep up the other statistics however, it’ll be very hard to notice, especially since switch-hitting leadoff hitters (Matthews is a switch-hitter) are a rare commodity.

Here are Matthews Jr.’s situational numbers…

  • Bases Empty: .312/.370/.474
  • Runners On: .315/.372/.540
  • RISP: .302/.383/.575
  • RISP w/2 outs: .328/.400/.586
  • Bases Loaded: .364/.333/1.182

Is there a situation in which this guy struggled last season? If there is, I can’t find it. Those situational stats are spectacular, especially for a leadoff hitter. In fact, there might not be a leadoff guy in baseball who put together situational numbers nearly as good as those of Matthews Jr.

Maybe there’s a flaw in his split stats…let’s see…(keep in mind, he’s a switch-hitter)

  • Vs. Lefties: .314/.374/.577 — amazing SLG
  • Vs. Righties: .313/.370/.472 — no difference between north- and south-paws
  • Home (Ameriquest Field): .324/.396/.512 — Texas treats him well…
  • Away: .303/.347/.480 — …but so does every other ballpark
  • Day Games; .277/.308/.405 — here’s a flaw! …sort of…
  • Night Games; .324/.390/.523 — this makes up for it

There’s just one flaw in Matthews Jr.’s split stats, and that’s his slip in numbers during day games. He only played in 35 of those however, and his much better stats in nightcaps make up for it, especially since he played in 112 of those.

Add to his rock-solid offensive numbers some acceptable defense in centerfield and you can see why Gary Matthews Jr. had a great season. Do you need some evidence of his defense? Check out the image below of Gary Matthews Jr. robbing the Astros’ Mike Lamb of a Homerun by climbing the wall.

So where’s the concern with Gary Matthews Jr?

It’s in his past. In most cases, the past wouldn’t matter if the present were great, but in Matthews Jr’s case, the past is too different from the present to be ignored. Take a look at Matthews Jr’s career numbers (including 2006)…

  • Batting Average: .263 (2006 — .313)
  • On-Base Percentage: .336 (2006 — .371)
  • Slugging Percentage: .419 (2006 — .495)
  • OPS: .755 (2006 — .866)

Obviously, there’s a huge discrepancy between Matthews Jr’s career numbers and his 2006 statistics. As I said, the key for any teams interested in him is to determine whether 2006 is an accurate representation of Matthews Jr’s ability, or if it was a fluke and he’ll soon return to his .260-hitting ways. My guess is that a little of both will happen.

Which team is likely to grab Gary Matthews Jr?

There are several teams in the market this offseason, for a centerfielder and a potential leadoff hitter. They include the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, and LA Dodgers. Also, don’t discount the Rangers as potential players in the Matthews Jr bidding given how well he played for Texas this year. Given that Matthews Jr has just one solid year under his belt, preceded by much inconsistency, he’s not likely to pick up big bucks; a raise however, is definitely in order for the veteran outfielder who made under 3Million in 2006.

My prediction: Gary Matthews Jr. will sign a 2year 18Million deal to join the San Diego Padres.

The Angels signed Gary Matthews Jr. to a 5year deal worth 50Million, bolstering their outfield and adding a solid leadoff hitter to their lineup. 

Stats prediction: Matthews Jr will not match his 2006 numbers but he won’t recede into his past either. I expect something to the tune of .290 with 12HR and 65RBI from him in 2007, with about 12SB’s and an .800OPS.

______  _____  _____  _____  _____  _____ ______ _____

Today’s moves…

The Boston Red Sox were declared the winners of the Daisuke Matsuzaka bidding with a monstrous bid of $51.1 Million just for the rights to negotiate with the Japanese star righthander.  They will, I think, make an effort to sign Matsuzaka to a deal that works for both sides, though working with agent Scott Boras can be a pain in the backside.  Theo Epstein and Co. have 30 days to reach an agreement with Matsuzaka and I think they will, on a contract of about 4years for 48Million.

The Chicago Cubs signed 2B/SS/OF Mark DeRosa to become their 2nd-baseman after DeRosa had a terrific year for the Texas Rangers.  The contract is a 3year pact worth 13Million.

The New York Mets re-signed veteran starting pitcher Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez to a 2year 12Million deal after acquiring him mid-season.  El Duque is one of the elder pitchers in the game, but he still has the stuff to be an effective middle-of-the-rotation starter.

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Tomorrow’s Profile: Gil Meche

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Trivia Time!

Yesterday’s question (see — Free Agent Profile: Roger Clemens) was…

In 2004, Roger Clemens became the third pitcher in MLB history to start an All-Star game for both the AL and NL (different years, of course). Can you name the other two?

The correct answer…

Randy Johnson and Vida Blue

Today’s question is…

On September 13, 2006, Gary Matthews Jr. accomplished what rare feat?

____________ ___________ _________ _________

This week’s profiles…

Wednesday: Gil Meche

Thursday: Julio Lugo

Friday: Tom Glavine

Saturday: Mark De Rosa (Cubs)Ray Durham

Sunday: Eddie Guardado

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